Why we track sea turtles...
Sea turtles are migratory, and throughout their lives, adult turtles migrate between their foraging grounds and nesting sites. Bonaire's breeding turtles return to Bonaire every two to three years for a period of two to four months. They then leave on their regular journeys -- of hundreds or thousands of kilometers -- to return to their feeding grounds.
Each year we fit turtles with small satellite transmitters in order to track their movements. Identifying sea turtles' migratory routes and distant foraging grounds helps us to better understand their life while providing valuable information in support of strategies for regional conservation.
Since our tracking program began in 2003 we have tracked sea turtle migrations from Bonaire west to the coastal waters of Nicaragua, Honduras and Colombia; north to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands; and east to Venezuela's Los Roques Archipelago.
These countries are range states of Bonaire's breeding sea turtles, regions where our turtles spend portions of their lives. Turtles protected on Bonaire may continue to be protected, or they may become vulnerable when they migrate, depending upon the degree of protection afforded by their migration and destination range states. To see all of the STCB turtle migrations click here.
How we track
We attach a small, non-intrusive satellite transmitter to a sea turtle's carapace (shell). Every time the turtle surfaces to breathe, the transmitter recognizes that it is out of the water and sends data about the turtle's location to NOAA satellites.
The accuracy of the location data varies depending on the number of messages received from the transmitter, environmental conditions and relative positions of the transmitter and the satellites. Each transmission is picked up by a receiver on the satellite and is then plotted onto a map.